Charley’s ride across America 16. Why am I doing this?


Day 28 feb 24.  50 miles 4:13. 80 degrees and muggy, flat, 3 dogs, horn worked, great road, end in Shepherd,TX

Day 29 feb 25. 58 miles  6:35  80 degrees, good roads, 8 dogs, one twice- backtrack. End Huntsville TX

Total miles finished 1232. 41% finished

Dear family and friends,

A couple of you have asked me why I’m doing this ride. So, here goes.

I occasionally allow myself to grab the TV clicker and click one round of channels. When I clicked onto not just Forrest Gump, but his long distance running scene. I wasn’t even surprised. In the movie it showed a TV reporter asking “Forrest, why do you run?”

And his answer was “ I just felt like running. Everything makes sense…”

Later In the movie Forrest says he finally figured out why he was running. His mama told him “ Put the past behind you before you move on”.

Maybe I just felt like bicycling.

Other Reasons why I am doing this:

  1. To see if I can
  2. To find out what’s going on in this country first hand
  3. To share it with friends and family via writing an email update
  4. Good winter destination after I changed my mind about Ecuador
  5. Didn’t appear until on the journey: to find THAT GUY


  1. See if I can: I’ve never done anything of this scale, so since I’m 69, I thought it high time that I tried.

When I was in a tea shop in St Augustine I was discussing my trip with the woman clerking there. I told her that I’d never tried anything like this before, so it was a test.

“You’re a fanatic bicyclist”

“No, I just mentioned that this is an new experiment for me”  I replied.

“ If you are planning to ride across the country, that makes you a fanatic” she insisted.

Before we came to blows we decided to agree to disagree and part friends.

In all my climbing or backpacking, I’ve gone into a trip for a few days, knowing that soon I’ll be home and comfy.

The longest I’ve done alone is the 49 day solo sailing trip from Tahiti to Neah Bay. Difference is that then I only had to sit and mostly read. I read War and Peace in almost one sitting. Sure, I had to tack the sails, but on a long trade wind passage that only happened about every ten days.

On this bike I need to keep effort up or nothing happens. The next day too. Real different.

Yet, by now I know I can keep going, even when tired, so I continue to pound out the miles. I’ve a long way to go, yet I’m getting my head around this “ Ive got this”

Reminds me of another time “ I’ve got this”

I only started playing organized basketball as a junior in high school. I grew so fast that my coordination suffered. Since I was six feet six of course I was on the team. Our team was awful, we went 2-17 for the season. I played basketball for about three hours per evening the next summer at an outdoor court. When the 10,000 hour rule became popular recently, it mentions something most people miss. It is 10,000 of perfect practice, not 10,000 hours of practice. Since I had minimal coaching, I got a lot better with practice, but my “ coaching” was watching Wilt Chamberlain play on TV.

Senior year I was a starter finally. I played pretty well  in practice, but when the games started with  the normal 200 people in the stands., I always felt like my feet were nailed to the floor when opposing centers would go around me with ease.

Halfway through the season our record was 0-10. The big rivalry with our neighboring school was on Friday night at their place. They were good. The first half I played my usual slow, scared self. Right before halftime I got a pass on the baseline and faced up to the basket, jumped above my opposition and swished it. Then the halftime break.

At halftime, Jack, my buddy the guard who fed me the ball said “ all day, you got this.” “ you’re better than anyone they’ve got”

“ Huh, maybe it’s just in my head and I can do this” thought I.

Jack was right. I got this. I had twelve more points and with  my newfound confidence twelve rebounds as well, all in a half. We lost the game by about six points, but I discovered  something deep inside. I got this.

In the locker room after the game coach mentioned that since we were pretty hopeless as a team this year, he intended to start building for next year and starting with tomorrow night’s game, all the juniors would be starting. I was crestfallen. 

In the middle of the locker room I removed my jersey, tore my name off the back, threw it at the coach and said “ fuck you, I quit”. 

My chances of ever playing college ball were then over I figured thanks to my emotional outburst.

I ended up going to university of Dayton, where my sister Karen was attending. Dayton is a Division 1 basketball school with a major basketball program.

All summer I continued to play basketball, shit, it was fun now, and I got a lot stronger.

Early in September they had an intramural basketball tournament. I got this. I was picked as the MVP of the tournament. 

The varsity coach approached me after the tournament and asked if I’d be interested in being a walk on to the team. Eat at training table, travel with the team and play with future pro ballers. I guess so. Since one of the scholarship players quit, we could split his scholarship with the other walk on. 

Turns out, I actually got to play quite a bit both years I was on the team. After two years, I left to focus on my studies.

I can remember the first time we ran out of the tunnel at the start of the game. Instead of the 200 or so fans that came to the high school games, there were already over 10,000 people in the stands eager to see the new crop of freshman athletes that were recruited. I found could play at that level, not like the stars, but with them.

I got this.


  1. What’s going on in the country?

I’m not very surprised. I see a mix of religion, conservative news, and sports. In fact, in some of the sports bars that I’ve eaten in, the TV screens were equally divided between those three subjects ( stations). Since I normally don’t go to sports bars in the northwest, I’m not sure they are different than here, but assume so.

Individually, everyone I met has been (eventually) nice and helpful. I hear people talking about  wanting to protect what they have, as if it’s a zero sum game. I’m less than halfway, so I’ve got lots more to hear.

  1. To share this journey with friends and family.

I am truly enjoying the time I get to think about and then compose my emails. It even seems like people are reading them. I love to read and to write. I had a close relationship for many years with someone who told me I was terrible at telling stories, so I often refrained. 

When I read adventure stories I want to know: Are they afraid? Do they avoid fear or go through it? What are they thinking as this or that happen? Anyone can describe a journey from the outside, I want to know what’s happening inside.

It’s fun to share my stories, entertain others, and there maybe even inspire someone to do a little bit of their own stretch.

  1. Winter destination after Ecuador mind change.

I was planning to spend three months exploring Ecuador as a potential future home. With the recent anti-gringo violence in both of the cities that I had planned to spend my time, I was searching for an alternative. Liz was training for her big ride in New Zealand, so it wasn’t a big step to think about a bike ride. This Southern Tier ride can be done mid-winter, as I want to be back in Alaska on the boat by late spring.

Right before I left, I was in REI switching stoves so I could burn iso-butane ( easy to find in US)  vs gasoline ( used for South America) and the young woman heard me say it was for an across the USA bike ride. She asked if this was something that I had always wanted to do, kind of a personal bucket list. I told her “no, I just came up with it a week ago”. She looked at me funny.

  1. To find THAT GUY

I’ve caught glimpses, not sure he even exists now or ever did. But I’m looking. 

Riding today was hot, long, and frustrating. Google sent me up what turned out to be a dead end road and I had to backtrack, adding almost 9 miles to my day. And I had to pass the same nasty dog twice!

Of course this would be the day to have my second flat, back tire this time.

I was greasy, sweaty and probably smelly when I checked in after six and a half hours on the road. Once again, I was happy to be in a room.

Thanks for comments.

Sending love,


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